Scientific journal

New Psychological Research

Khoroshilov D.A. Ontological, social and psychological precarity: ways of interaction in transitive society

Dmitry A. Khoroshilov, Ph.D., Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia; bld. 6, Miusskaya square, Moscow, Russia, 125993;

This article examines the phenomenology of the experience of precarity (vulnerability, fragility, and insecurity of a person who finds himself in a situation of uncertainty and transitivity). The following three levels of analysis of the named state are distinguished: 1) ontological (based on the arguments of the French philosopher E. Levinas about the initial openness of subjectivity in the face of the Other), 2) social (the research of precarity as a constituent characteristic of a new «dangerous» class of precariat based on the works of G. Standing, J. Butler, and other authors) and 3) psychological. The semantically close, but still different in their accents, concepts of precarity (a state of uncertainty in the future, shortening of the time perspective, anxiety), precariat (a social community, which includes individuals from different classes who do not have stable employment and are deprived of social guarantees), precarization and precariousness (a sharp deterioration of working conditions due to the globalization of the economy and increased competition) are specified. Based on P. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, compared with theories of cognitive schemes, social representations, and collective emotions, a hypothesis is proposed about the existence of a special precarious habitus in modern society. The central psychological structure of the precarious habitus is anxiety as a negative emotional reaction to the frustration of individualization and the lack of sufficient institutional support in solving social problems. The duality of the practice of individualization of precarity is discussed, which at the same time provides resources for coping with a situation of instability and uncertainty, and increases the singularity of society as the disintegration of social ties and support networks due to the attribution of responsibility for making risky decisions to individuals rather than communities. The article presents the results of an empirical study of the experience and perception of precarity, carried out in the design of a qualitative methodology using visual methods, focus groups, and thematic analysis. In the conclusion of the article, it is argued that precarity is an existential experience of transitivity, returning to the philosophical problem of intersubjectivity of consciousness and responsibility for the suffering and pain of the Other (according to the same E. Levinas).

Key words: transitivity, precarity, habitus, collective emotions, individualization

For citation: Khoroshilov, D.A. (2021). Ontological, social and psychological precarity: ways of interaction in transitive society. New Psychological Research, No. 2, pp.  64–83, DOI: 10.51217/npsyresearch_2021_01_02_04


The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project 20-013-00799\21 «Socio-psychological mechanisms of somatization and hypochondrization in the information society».


Andreeva, G.M. (2007). Social cognition. Moscow: Aspekt Press.

Bauman, Z. (2008). Liquid modernity. St. Petersburg: Piter.

Bauman, Z. (2019). The war on lies cannot be won. Golod. Retrieved from

Beck, U. (2000). Risk society: towards a new modernity. Moscow: Progress-Traditsiya.

Bourdieu P. (1997, December 12–13).  La précarité est aujourd’hui partout. Intervention lors des Rencontres européennes contre la précarité. Grenoble. Retrieved from

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Structure, habitus, practice. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsial’noi antropologii, 1(2), 44–59.

Butler, J. (2018). Notes on the performative theory of assembly. Moscow: Ad Marginem Press.

Castel, R. (2009). Metamorphoses of the social question: chronicle employees. St. Petersburg: Aleteiya.

Chekhonadskikh, M. (2012). Lost in translation: precarity in theory and practice, Moskovskii khudozhestvennyi zhurnal, 79/80, 33–39.

Druzhilov, S.A. (2015). Precariat and informal employment in Russia: socio-psychological aspects. Gumanitarnye nauchnye issledovanii, 1(2). Retrieved from

Falikman, M.V. (2018). Visual attention paradoxes: effects of perceptual tasks. Moscow: Yazyki slavyanskikh kul’tur.

Fiske, S.T., Taylor, S.E. (2020). Social cognition: from brains to culture. London: Sage.

Garanyan, N.G. (2015). Theory of social comparison in clinical psychology. Psikhologicheskii zhurnal, 2015, 36(4), 36–49.

Golenkova, Z.T., Goliusova, Yu.V. (2015). Precariat as a new group of employees. Uroven’ zhizni naseleniya regionov Rossii, 1(195), 47–57.

Guseltsev, N.S. (2020). The employment of the individual in contempo- rary transforming society. Vestnik RGGU. Seriya «Psikhologiya. Pedagogika. Obrazovanie», 2, 133–150.

Karp, D. (2018). Speaking of sadness: depression, disconnection, and the meanings of illness. Moscow: Olimp-biznes.

Kaube, J. (2016). Max Weber: life at the turn of the centuries. Moscow: Delo, 2016.

Kholmogorova, A.B., Garanyan, N.G. (1999). Emotional disorders and contemporary culture. Konsul’tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya, 7(2), 61–90.

Khoroshilov, D.A. (2018). Collective experiences of precarity in modern culture (in memory of T. G. Stefanenko). Psikhologicheskie issledovaniya, 11(58), 1. Retrieved from shilov58.html

Khoroshilov, D.A., Ilzher, E.A. (2019). Collective experiences of precarity and civil movements. Natsional’nyi psikhologicheskii zhurnal, 2(34), 48–54.

Leahy, R. (2017). Anxiety free: unravel your fears before they unravel you. St. Petersburg: Piter, 2017.

Lévinas, E. (2004). Difficult freedom: selected works. Moscow: ROSSPEN.

Martsinkovskaya, T.D. (2016). Culture and subculture in the space of psychological chronotope. Moscow: Smysl.

Martsinkovskaya, T.D. (2020). Personal boundaries of space and time in a situation of deprivation according to Covid-19. Voprosy psikhologii, 66(4), 104–113.

May, R. (2016).  The meaning of anxiety. Moscow: IOI.

Melnikova, O.T., Khoroshilov, D.A. (2020). Methodological problems of qualitative research in psychology. Moscow; Akropol’.

Moser, B. (2020). Sontag: her life and work. Moscow: Bombora.

Nesse, R. (2020). Good reasons for bad feelings: insights from the frontier of evolutionary psychiatry. Moscow: Al’pina-non-fikshn.

Philosophers of France: Dictionary. (2016). Moscow.: Tsentr gumanitarnykh initsiativ.

Poleva, N.S., Ayanyan, A.N. (2021). Transitivity as a factor in the precarization of everyday life. Novye psikhologicheskie issledovaniya, No. 1, 29–53.

Prihozhan, A.M. (2000). Anxiety in children and adolescents: psychological nature and age dynamics. Moscow: Moskovskii psikhologo-sotsial’nyi institut.

Radaev, V.V. (2019). Millennials: how the Russian society changes. Moscow: VShE.

Rekwitz A. (2017). Die Gesellschaft der Singularitäten: Zum Strukturwandel der Moderne. Berlin: Suhrkamp,

Ritzer, G. (2002). Modern sociological theories. St. Petersburg: Piter.

Scarderwood, F. (2000). Anxiety: a journey into yourself. Samara: Bakhrakh-M.

Shmatko, N.A. (1998). Habitus in the structure of sociological theory. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsial’noi antropologii, 1(2), 60–70.

Sizova, I.L., Leonova, L.A., Khenze, A. (2017). The precariousness of employment and labor incomes in Russia and Germany: self-perception of wage workers. Ekonomicheskaya sotsiologiya, 18(4), 14–59.

Sokuler, Z.A. (2016). Subjectivity, language and the Other: new ways and temptations of thought discovered by the teachings of Emmanuel Levinas. Moscow: Universitetskaya kniga.

Standing, G. (2014). The precariat: the new dangerous class. Moscow: Ad Marginem Press.

Tartakovskaya, I.N. (2019). Precarious employment and work-life balance: gender aspects. Monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya: ekonomicheskie i sotsial’nye peremeny, 3, 163–178.

Tartakovskaya, I.N., Vanke, A.V. (2019). Mobility strategies of precarious employees and the formation of precarious habitus. Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal, 25(2), 99–115.

Thiergen, P. (2021). Amor legendi, or The miracle of Russian literature. Moscow: VShE.

Tomasello, M. (2011). Origins of human communication. Moscow: Yazyki slavyanskikh kul’tur.

Toshchenko, Zh.T. (2019). The precariat phenomenon: theoretical and methodological premises of its study. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya, 9, 51–63.

Van Dijk, T.A. (1989). Language, cognition, communication. Moscow: Progress.

Yampolskaya, A.V. (2017). From passivity to affectivity. In S. Sholokhova, A. Yampolskaya (Eds.), (Post)phenomenology: a new phenomenology in France and beyond (pp. 229–240). Moscow: Akademicheskii proekt.

keywords: transitivity, precarity, habitus, collective emotions, individualization

received 22 June 2021

published 22 June 2021

download PDF